Passing through one of its worst financial crisis, West Bengal cannot execute the time-bound mega development package for Jangalmahal announced by chief minister Mamata Banerjee during her visit to the Maoist-dominated area earlier this month.
The view at a meeting on Saturday between the state’s chief secretary, finance secretary and 13 other secretaries of departments, which will undertake the development projects, was such expenditure now was not possible.
“The package meant for 23 Maoist violence-affected blocks faces two hurdles. First, the finance department did not approve the projects before they were announced. And second, the state’s acute financial crisis simply does not permit such expenditure,” a secretary present at the meeting said on condition of anonymity.
“Some of the projects may be undertaken when funds are available, which basically means the deadlines laid down by the CM cannot be honoured,” the secretary added.
The embarrassment could have been avoided if the CM had taken approval of the finance department before announcing the package, bureaucrats said.
Cash-strapped, the government is being forced to raise debts even for paying salaries and pension. Plan head allocations of budgeted expenditure are not reaching the districts.
Jangalmahal (forest belt) comprises West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts. Politically, this development package is one of the two vital components of the CM’s Maoist policy. The other is an offer for peace talks.
The CM had set deadlines for many of the measures she announced at Nayagram (West Midnapore on July 12) and Sarenga (Bankura on July 13). She had declared 10,000 local youngsters would be recruited to the Home Guards and National Volunteer Force and as special police constables within three months.
Water supply schemes, with an outlay of R112 crore, were also to be taken up immediately, while the backward classes welfare department was to provide bicycles to all girl students.